“Transformation” in Copyright Law – The Infringer’s Magic Wand?: A Case Study of Disney

Date: Oct 24, 2014 (Friday)

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Venue: Room 824, 8/F, Cheng Yu Tung Tower,Centennial Campus, HKU

Speaker: Dr David Tan, Associate Professor, National University of Singapore

Abstract: Many works protected by copyright law are in fact cultural texts and semiotic signs that also possess significant sets of established meanings and connotations to the public which utilise these works in the process of social identity formation and democratic discourse. While copyright owners, especially multinational corporations like Disney, often disapprove of the unauthorised appropriation of their works for the purposes of parody and satire, such secondary uses often fall under the protection of the fair use exception in the United States. It is argued that while copyright law has become increasingly open to recognising any “creation of new information, new aesthetics, new insights and understandings” as a transformative use of the original work, the boundaries of “transformative use” seem to be expanding at an alarming rate to allow too many infringers to escape liability.

This paper examines the current scope of the transformative use doctrine in the first factor of fair use as codified in section 107 of the US Copyright Act 1976 and postulates how transformative use may be interpreted under Hong Kong’s Copyright Ordinance (Cap 528).

About the speaker: David Tan holds a PhD from Melbourne Law School, a Master of Laws from Harvard, and graduated with first class honours in law from the University of Melbourne.  He has been appointed Vice Dean (Academic Affairs) at NUS Law from 1 Jan 2015. His areas of research cover copyright and trademarks, celebrity image and privacy rights, as well as freedom of speech. His recent publications include a cultural analysis of trademarks and an evaluation of the transformative use doctrine in copyright fair use.
His law publications have appeared in a wide range of journals that include Harvard Journal of Sports & Entertainment Law, Yale Journal of International Law, Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, Media & Arts Law Review, Australian Intellectual Property Journal, Singapore Journal of Legal Studies, Sydney Law Review and Law Quarterly Review.  David is also a well-known fashion and celebrity portrait photographer in Singapore, and has had his photographs published in Vanity Fair, Time, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and Marie Claire.